Tag Archives: death penalty

China To Reduce Number Of Capital Offences To 55

China executes more convicted criminals every year than any other country. The exact number is a state secret but is estimated to be in the thousands.  Adding up Amnesty International’s figures, this Bystander reckons that China executes more than the rest of the world combined.

One reason is the lengthy list of crimes — 68 of them — that carry the death penalty. That list may now be culled to 55, according to Xinhua.  Some white-collar crimes may come off the list including 13 “economy-related, non-violent offences” such as fraudulent use of financial bills, letters of credit and value added tax invoices. Smuggling gold, silver and other precious metals out of the country would also be exempted. Corruption, considered an economic crime, seems to be one that will still be considered a capital offense. A draft amendment to the country’s criminal code has been submitted for a first reading to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress,  so there is a way to go before any change happens.

The number of executions has been falling since 2007 when the Supreme Court restarted reviewing all cases in which a lower court had imposed the death penalty. Xinhua quotes Chen Zexian, a criminal law expert at the China Law Society, as saying that death penalties are mainly imposed for only seven or eight crimes, mostly violent ones such as murder, rape and robbery, so culling the list of capital offences by 13 may not have a significant impact on the numbers, especially as they are all economic crimes.

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China Executes Most, But Fewer

China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the U.S. comprise a deadly quintet. They accounted for nine out of ten of all known executions last year, according to Amnesty International’s latest yearly tally. China tops its list with 470 executions, almost two in five of the 1,252 Amnesty found.

China’s total is down from 1,860 in 2006. It is difficult to quantify how much of a reduction in the use of the death penalty in China the 2007 total really represents. Amnesty says the true figure “is undoubtedly much higher”. But it also notes that there is likely to have been “a significant drop” following the resumption of review of all death sentences by the Supreme People’s Court at the beginning of the 2007.

In the middle of last year, the authorities said there had been a 10% reduction in executions following the restoration of the court’s review but provided no numbers to support the assertion. Last month, Reuters reported comments by SPC judge Huang Ermei that in 2007 the court rejected 15% of death sentences passed by lower courts, due to “unclear facts, insufficient evidence, inappropriate determination of punishment and unlawful procedures.” Again, no data to back up the claim.

China has 60 crimes that carry the death penalty, classifies its use as a state secret and death sentences are carried out in secret. It may be using the death penalty less or it may be that the reviews are just building up a backlog of executions that will show up in Amnesty’s report next year.

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